אפריל 16, 2023

Eating galls... For science - April 2023 (Happy gall week!)

It's gall week! Which means that specially now I should get back to business. I haven't found many new galls, only Plagiotrochus quercusilicis for now. Fortunately it was a very surprising one, keep reading to find out. I'll see if I can go for a short walk on Wednesday, and am planning on finding some Quercus pyrenaica or Q. faginea trees this weekend. I'll also be exploring my university's arboretum for galls and miners. unfortunately I wasn't able to find this Andricus gall again.

Gall 1: Contarinia ilicis on Quercus rotundifolia
Date: April 15
Taste: Virtually none, like licking wood again. Maybe to small and dry to be able to detect anything.
Texture: Slightly woody, seems to have a "lid" that breaks off more easily than the base of the "pyramid".
Smell: None noticed.
Notes: Another unremarkable one, but I didn't expect much from this one.

Gall 2: Plagiotrochus quercusilicis on Quercus rotundifolia
Date: April 12 (Flower gall), April 15 (Leaf gall)
Taste: One of the most unique ones so far, it actually tasted like something this time. There isn't any appreciable difference between the leaf gall and the flower gall, unless you eat the flowers as well. The taste is oddly familiar but can't quite pin it down, closest thing I can think is of unripe redcurrant (Ribes rubrum) berries, or whatever is known as "grosella" in Colombia; slightly sour at first, then it just tastes like generic unripe berry flesh. My friend @katane222 described it as similar to small blackberries that you can find on Rubus shrubs in the autumn.
Texture: Perhaps as hard to bite into as a cherry. It isn't as hard on the outside as other galls. The inside is very fleshy, and has some sort of watery liquid.
Smell: Also similar to berries. Barely noticeable.
Notes: Probably the most noteworthy one so far. At the very least it is edible and doesn't taste terrible.

Gall 3: Aceria ilicis on Quercus rotundifolia
Date: April 15
Taste: I would say it has no taste at all.
Texture: This is a very primitive gall, just darkened trichomes on the underside of the leaf that are denser than usual and sometimes a bulge dorsally where the modified trichomes are. The trichome part is hairy, in a way it resembles the backside of leather, while the bulge has no taste (same as the leaf).
Smell: None, unless Quercus rotundifolia leaves have any particular smell. Could be very faint.
Notes: This one I couldn't decide how to taste it. Biting into it doesn't have much result, so it's best to directly lick the modified trichomes. Luckily no one was watching because it looks very weird.

Gall 3: Dryomyia lichtensteinii on Quercus rotundifolia
Date: April 15
Taste: Once again, dry and unremarkable, in fact it numbs your taste buds, probably some chemical defence against herbivores.
Texture: Somewhat hard, but can be easily broken down by chewing. Reminded me of peanuts.
Smell: None noticed.
Notes: Maybe the third time I've tasted this one, this time it did felt like I got proper results.

Posted on אפריל 16, 2023 09:39 אחה"צ by juan_sphex juan_sphex | 2 תצפיות | 0 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

דצמבר 21, 2022

Eating galls... For science - December 2022

Well, after a lengthy period of not finding any galls, days with an insane amount of rain, and being too busy studying to go out, looks like thanks to my university's arboretum I can return to business as usual! I'll keep it simple and come back to this later since I'm supposed to be studying for the last exam before holidays break, but my curiosity was itching. I'll try to take a walk tomorrow and see what I can find.

Gall 1: (Presumably) Dryomyia cocciferae on Quercus coccifera
Date: December 21
Taste: Virtually none. As this is an sclerophyllous oak, its leaves are coriaceous and rigid, and despite the lots of rain we had recently, the leaf has barely any fluids that would give it, at the very least, the usual "plant" flavour. I guess "Let no water leave" also means "No water can go in".
Texture: Slightly more fleshy than the leaf, but still as firm.
Smell: None noticed.
Notes: Those who are familiar with Q. coccifera know just how sharp and rigid the spines can be (I've even bled from handling it to photograph a mine). And of course it's a bad idea to put in your mouth, but that's not enough to stop me... In reality what I did was rip it through the midrib so I could avoid the spikes. I feel bad that ruminants can't do the same.

Gall 2: Aploneura lentisci on Pistacia lentiscus
Date: December 21
Taste: Two kinds of taste on this one: One is hard to describe, bitter but not too strongly, if anything it makes your taste buds numb in a way. The other one; clearly more bitter, and unfortunately disgusting... to the point that I had this weird reflex that caused me to produce saliva and spit it out involuntarily. Appears to be caused by frass again.
Texture: Like a thick peel, but becoming mildly spongy and fleshier towards the thicker part of the gall.
Smell: Fragrant, can't think of anything to compare it with but probably has a similar smell to leaves used for aroma/taste in cooking. Pleasant but probably wouldn't make a good freshener. Persistent (The smell stays on my fingers after handling).
Notes: Inquilines include a springtail and a very small psyllid nymph. Not relevant to this, but thought I'd mention it; Since different frasses (frassi?) probably have different flavors. Not something I want to find out though...

Gall 3: (Presumably) Adelges abietis on Picea abies
Date: December 26
Taste: Uncharacteristic at first, just like other woody galls, with the exception that if often has leaves growing from it, which are mildly minty and don't taste as bland as the woody part. The spongy tissue inside is also minty but in a different way, slightly cinnamon-like.
Texture: Woody, the inside somewhat more spongy but also hardened to the point of resembling wood.
Smell: Same as the spruce itself. Probably more noticeable when the gall is still soft and fresh.
Notes: Interestingly, despite the pine cone appearance, this gall is created by a distortion of the leaves, which may explain the minty flavor.

Posted on דצמבר 21, 2022 11:19 אחה"צ by juan_sphex juan_sphex | 2 תצפיות | 0 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

אוקטובר 30, 2022

Eating galls... For science - October 2022

Gall 1: Andricus quercustozae on Quercus faginea
Date: October 7
Taste: Unremarkable, dry. Basically tastes like wood.
Texture: The outside is too hard to bite. The inside is woody, spongy to the touch but more like sawdust when bitten into because it is very brittle.
Smell: Woody, mildly pleasant.
Notes: Not the one featured on the observation, though it was too beautiful and remarkably large. This time of the year this gall hardens and becomes more wood-like. Most already had exit holes and showed no evidence of inquilines/parasites. I am not familiar with the young gall but I assume it is softer and more spongy.

Gall 2: Dryomyia lichtensteinii on Quercus rotundifolia
Date: October 7
Taste: Unremarkable, dry. Despite being part of the leaf it doesn't have any noticeable taste. These trees receive plenty of sunlight and heat so there's not much water/sap in the leaves.
Texture: Somewhat hard, but can be easily broken down by chewing. Reminded me of peanuts.
Smell: None noticed.
Notes: Exit holes present.

Gall 3: Unknown gall (Presumably sawfly?) on Salix sp.
Date: October 7
Taste: Unremarkable at first. Vaguely bitter after chewing. There is a possibility that frass (black "dust") is the cause of the bitter taste.
Texture: Not as hard as the Dryomyia lichtensteinii gall, but not too soft either, probably as hard as unripe berries.
Smell: None noticed
Notes: No larva/pupa present.

Gall 4: Oligotrophus sp. on Juniperus communis
Date: October 7
Taste: Like any leaf would taste, but slightly minty.
Texture: Depending on how developed the gall is, it can be woody, or have the same texture as Juniperus leaves; firm and fleshy.
Smell: Same as the plant itself. Aromatic and pleasant.
Notes: Juniperus spp. can cause diarrhea and nausea if consumed, but eating just one leaf is unlikely to have any effect. This gall is usually made up of 4 hardened leaves that gradually close and form a protective shell for one or two sets of leaves that curl up in spoon fashion and form a chamber for the larva. The gall probably falls off when ready, as I observed that Oligotrophus spp. galls on Juniperus spp. easily fall off when disturbed. Presumably for it be buried under litter (Pine needles and the such).

Posted on אוקטובר 30, 2022 01:28 אחה"צ by juan_sphex juan_sphex | 4 תצפיות | תגובה 1 | הוספת תגובה

Eating galls... For science

Since late 2020 I had a thought on my mind that some galls look strangely appetizing. I also was surprised that in thousands of years of human history, there are very few instances of galls being used as food other than in very specific places or cultures (and there must be a good reason for it). Wikipedia does mention that stem swelling induced by Ustilago esculenta, a type of smut fungus on Zizania latifolia is edible, and highly valued in China. However I will be focusing on arthropod galls because they are more common and arthropods are my field of interest. I also found some useful info about galls on Salvia spp. that are traditionally eaten in Greece and the Middle East. Might have to travel to one of those places!

So, I figured I should eat as many galls as I can, annotate their taste, texture, and observations, and hopefully not get sick on the process. I won't eat the arthropod if I can help it.

I also had the idea of recording myself collecting the gall, eating it and then describing it. But I keep forgetting. So far most galls are unremarkable but I have tried very few because I rarely I remember to taste them. So irresponsible!

Posted on אוקטובר 30, 2022 12:26 אחה"צ by juan_sphex juan_sphex | 2 תצפיות | 3 תגובות | הוספת תגובה